Tuesday 23 July 2019
The heatwave digs in with temperatures nudging 40, seemingly to the delight of the sunflowers beaming at me from fields as I pass.
North of Condom, lying like charms on a discarded bracelet, lie many of Les Plus Beaux Villages de France. A marketing umbrella, it is nonetheless true, and a good source for discovering small jewels that might otherwise pass unnoticed.
I drove from the départment of Gers, through Lot-et-Garonne, into Dordogne, dropping in on three villages; enjoying three starters rather than a main course.
All three were Bastides, fortified villages built from scratch during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries in the southwest of France to take ownership of uninhabited areas.
The Bastides were laid out on hills using similar grids, with a square in the centre, roads running parallel to its sides, and the blocks divided into properties of similar sizes. As such, the villages look similar, but they all have their own character.
A small marketplace,
views over the country from its gates,
the town well. It’s also on the road to Santiago, though some distance away.
A larger village, the square
covered around the edges,
a large church with a ‘heritage listed’ facade.
Streets, some looking like the set of Maigret,
by narrow alleyways.
One of the best Bastides,
with more gates and fortifications,
a large square,
laid out in preparation for a big festival this weekend.
The area is beautiful, and these small villages great for dining and shopping for esoteric purchases to remember your holiday by. A different pace and scale, the kind of area to bimble around without a plan.